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Business Management

Basil Daniells (Middle East) - The Changing Role of the Finance Department...

The role of the finance department has changed greatly in the Middle East in recent years, particularly as a result of the global economic turmoil that has caused changes across the region. It is no longer just about being the financial policemen and women of the organisation, focused on compliance or transaction-based tasks. Irrespective of a company's size and trading geographies, there is more emphasis on the way finance departments drive growth in the business, analyse its performance on all levels, and support the development of its strategic initiatives. The key challenge, and especially so in the Middle East, is that for many departments the software they use has not evolved with the role.

Achieving these new goals requires a finger on the financial pulse of the company. As the pace of business continues to accelerate, departments must move rapidly with precision and agility, reducing reaction time and optimising financial performance. Businesses cannot afford to miss an opportunity or delay a necessary course adjustment. This means everyone in the business who impacts the financial results must know how the business is performing on a daily basis. In a global business environment, forward-thinking and planning is vital; critical financial metrics can't be permitted to get lost in the information jungle.

An example of this is a leading oil and gas contracting company in the Arabian Gulf. The company is currently in the process of replacing a number of bespoke and off-the-shelf applications that it use for procurement, warehousing, manufacturing and financial operations.

"Because we use a mixture of applications it's currently difficult and time consuming to prepare accurate business reports, with data often being out-of-date by the time the report is finished," said the group commercial manager. "We need access to live and up-to-date business data from across the entire operations in order to make effective management decisions. Running a mixture of products doesn't support a growing international business and we knew we needed an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to improve data visibility and control."

Many businesses are finding that it's no longer enough to respond to financial trends uncovered by complex business intelligence tools, all too often removed from the point of decision and managed and used by a limited few. Today, decisions that affect the overall performance of the business are being made both top down and bottom up on a daily basis.

These needs can no longer be met by old applications, with their fixed reports, fixed roles, silos of information and lack of on-time reporting - they lack the transparency and flexibility required to respond promptly to real time business events. Modern applications overcome all of these challenges by putting users in control of the system and the information it presents. For example, real-time, proactive reports and dashboards give users ‘live' insights into the business and into the risks it may be exposed to; and new tools allow users without computing degrees to update the rules governing the business processes.

Finance departments have always played a central role in business success in the Middle East, but never more so than today. If they don't have the tools to meet the challenges of modern business, then they risk losing competitive advantage and being left on the back foot. Put simply, standing on the sidelines of this revolution, could result in extinction.

 

By Basil Daniells, Regional Vice President - MEA, Turkey & India, Epicor Software

 

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